Penny Dreadful Season 2 Recap & Review


This review contains spoilers.

Whatever weaknesses the first season of Penny Dreadful suffered from, the second has completely overcome them like a vampire who has discovered how to exist in daylight. The character development paces better and covers the whole cast, while the story expands and the plot thickens in all the right ways. Penny Dreadful season two is superior in every way.

Once again the intrigue revolves around Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), sought by the Devil for her incredible abilities as a spiritual medium and, as we discover, witchcraft. However her friends and protectors within the home of Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) are distracted by powerful dilemmas and charmed by new, terrible foes; a coven of witches known as the Nightcomers. Servants of the Devil who are capable of acting in both and day and night and in public or shadows, they’ll stop at nothing to have Ives as the bride of Lucifer.

PDCutWifeIn the flashback episode “The Nightcomers” we learn of Joan Clayton (Patti LuPone), the Cut-Wife, who reluctantly comes to protect and mentor Vanessa in both sides of the magical arts. Although only present for a single episode, LuPone’s performance beautifully portrayed her character as she balanced the line between her pragmatism and loneliness, a woman with a rough exterior that belies her genuine good heart.

By transferring the focus from Vanessa to Joan, showrunner John Logan wisely prevents audience-fatigue with Ms Ives while still strengthening her background. Furthermore, the connection between the two women improves our understanding of Vanessa’s knowledge and sets the stage for a test against her soul. Joan is connected to the aforementioned coven of witches, as her sister is none over than head-witch Madame Kali, who has long coveted Vanessa. Helen McCrory returns as said villain, revealing herself as the true foe after a brief guest star role during the first season. Her coven’s unusual methods of subversion result in Clayton’s tragic immolation by a mob, and set the stage for Vanessa to seek vengeance. More on Kali in a moment.

Meanwhile Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) struggles to keep a cap over the events of the first season, which are unraveling in ways brilliant and unexpected. The fury of the Creature (Rory Kinnear) has been temporarily assuaged with the death and revival of the “Bride of Frankenstein” Lily (Billie Piper), whom veterans of the earlier season will recognize as Brona, Ethan Chandler’s former lover, and the prostitute once in service to Dorian Gray.

Victor persuades the Creature to grant the young doctor time to teach Lily, as to prevent the confusion and horrors that befell his first creation. The situation sets up an inevitable conflict between Dr. Frankenstein and his friend Ethan (Josh Hartnett) who believes Brona dead and gone, but this has yet to pass. Worse yet, Lily’s innocence and interest in the world lead Victor to fall for his third creation, blinding him to the fact she has recollected her memories.

Meanwhile, Ethan Chandler has his own problems. The law has not forgotten the hotel massacre committed by Ethan’s werewolf persona. Nor has the lone surviving bounty hunter, who attempted to capture Ethan for delivery back to his as-of-yet unrevealed father.

The legal pressure on Ethan grows thanks to macabre Inspector Bartholomew Rusk (Douglas Hodge) who reveals Ethan’s real surname as Talbot, hinting at the identity of his fatherThe increased police presence is felt by the residents of Sir Murray’s Manor, and Ethan turns to Murray’s Senegalese servant Sembene, played by Danny Sapali, to help manage his lunar proclivities. These revelations further build their friendship.

Finally, Sir Malcolm Murray himself grapples with the demons of his past. The death of his vampire daughter Mina has destroyed what little remained of his marriage to Gladys (Noni Stapleton) and has left him persona non-grata in his wife’s presence. Yet honor prevents an official divorce. This unfortunate situation is “resolved” by an affair he has with Madame Kali, unaware of her motivations. The curses spun by her coven soon leave Gladys buried alongside both her dead children… a death seemingly by her own hand.

On the other side of the fence, Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) has slowly emerged as a villain in his own right. Starting a relationship with transgender prostitute Angelique (Jonny Beauchamp), the show reminded us of the times and how their relationship would be generally frowned upon. Dorian himself seems admirable, a true gentleman despite the struggles Angelique has with her identity.


Unfortunately for Angelique, she stumbles upon Gray’s secret and we learn that even her acceptance of it isn’t enough to keep him from insuring her silence. Angelique’s murder feels complicated by myriad reasons. Keeping her from talking is but one, rather Dorian may have found some thrill in betraying and killing someone he loved. It could also have been because Dorian needed to clear the way for his new relationship with Brona, who seems intent on taking revenge upon the world itself for her previous, abused life.

The ending is powerful, shattering the group’s cohesion entirely. Victory was very costly, as the psychic assault the coven leveled against Sir Murray and Dr. Frankenstein drove them to the brink, while Ethan was tricked into committing a terrible act against his friend. Vanessa Ives emerged from her struggle the least damaged and even stronger for it, but seems the only one to do so. And although Madame Kali was defeated and slain (though death is questionable when the devil is involved), her treacherous daughter Hecate Poole (Sarah Greene) escaped to cause havoc another day.

PDASembeneThe hardest hitting moment of the season was undoubtedly Sembene’s death, at the hands of a transformed Ethan. The Senegal hunter had become an intriguing and likable character despite his aura of mystery, and watching his friendship with Ethan grow was remarkably enjoyable. It seemed likely that Danny Sapali was let go from the show for good, as he joined the cast of The Bastard ExecutionerHowever, with that show’s cancellation, and how often Penny Dreadful reverses death, a window is open for Sapali’s return.

For the rest of the cast, they become divided and ultimately alone. Victor Frankenstein, upon discovery of Brona’s rage, takes to the needle. Likewise the heartbroken Creature joins an expedition going north, after Brona rejects him and the family for whom he worked attempted to turn him into a freakshow attraction at a wax museum. A regretful Ethan Chandler turns himself in, only to discover that Rusk has orders to send him back to America. Murray returns to Africa with Sembene’s body. Only Vanessa stays put, alone in the manor.

As it stands, the third season is setting itself up for the difficult task of covering multiple plot lines. With the crew so scattered, the expansion of the story will be quite demanding. Season three is set to premiere in Q2, 2016.

The Gift of Hadrborg


Today marks the launch of the Banner Saga: Warbands Kickstarter! Based on the hit game created by Stoic Studio, the board game continues combining tactical skirmishes with long term resource management to survive. And the even more incredible news is that, within about 30 minutes, the KickStarter has already been entirely funded.

Of interest to readers out there is that my first novel, The Gift of Hadrborg, is an add-on available to anyone who joins the funding. Inspired by The Banner Saga: Factions, the story takes place before the events of the first game and tells the tale of Eirik and the woes of a city suffering from crime and strife.

The Gift of Hadrborg

In the troubled city of Strand, the City Watch and Governor’s Guard struggle to fend off the criminal empires who rule their streets. Between the corruption, smuggling, underground slaving, mass larceny and a rebellious group attempting to usurp the throne, Guardsman Eirik’s life shows no signs of getting any easier.

Yet the arrival of group seeking a stolen artifact heralds a coming disaster for the already rotten city. Uncertain if he can trust his own people, Eirik has little choice but to throw in his lot with two enigmatic varl and a country boy. Toss in a conman seeking vengeance and a slave-turned-bodyguard with an elusive agenda, and Eirik has his work cut out for him.

But even if his questionable allies and the hordes of eager thugs don’t kill him, the plot they discover threatens to rip Strand apart. And may destroy the fragile varl-human alliance that maintains the peace with their giant neighbors in the north…

The Gift of Hadrborg is an action-packed prequel novel to Stoic Studio’s critically acclaimed The Banner Saga Part 1, which was funded through Kickstarter to wild success.

A viking-fantasy meets crime thriller, The Gift of Hadrborg will help satiate story-lovers whether or not they’re salivating for the next installment of The Banner Saga series! But no matter what, check out the KickStarter. Whether you love great games or stories (or both), Stoic Studio, VS Evil and Megacon Games have got you covered!

The Story’s The Thing!

ScholarSome ideas die hard.

That is the ailment of the month. A document keeps expanding whenever innovation strikes, as elements of a new novel are jotted down. It’s a yarn built upon twin short stories, both pitched to various publishers but rejected with encouraging remarks. A lack of depth is the usual problem, and that is the much sought solution.

The background for SFF novels often times becomes a double-trap for young authors. Fledgling word-smiths frequently fly by the seat of their pants, relying on strictly their imagination to fill in the blanks. At worst, the results are derivative of that writer’s most recent literary conquest. At best, their concoction is remarkably original but devoid of particulars and technicalities which audiences crave– with proper delivery.

Likewise, the note-taking developer types with their pseudo God-complexes can become so involved with research into each organization, country and character that production slows to a crawl. However should the effort avoid the pitfall of becoming a textbook of fiction, the outcome is often an achievement.

Such truths could sour hopes for the junior scribe. Yet the most memorable books often borrow strongest from true life. Robert E. Howard is said to have once stated, “There is no literary work, to me, half as zestful as rewriting history in the guise of fiction.” J.R.R. Tolkien drew heavy inspiration from Norse mythology including Elves, Dwarves and Der Ring des Nibelungen. And George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire draws inspiration from the War of Roses and, some believe, a few other sources.

Admittedly these facts are a deterrent. There is little pleasure to be derived from the crestfallen countenances of dreamers-turned-skjalds for whom this is the lesson du jour. The fusion of economics, history, politics, culture, religion, psychology and science and/or the occult into a tale is no trick. Such intellectual pack-rats authors can become, for no esoteric knowledge is worthless.

The cynicism is due to timing. National Novel Writing Month has nearly arrived. An event that floods publishers and book delivery platforms with thousands of manuscripts. An event sponsored and encouraged by various groups who financially benefit from the stoked competition that spawns the deluge. An event that sparks the yin and yang of ambivalent emotions; a desire to be encouraged and see folks succeed, yet fearing the earnest zeal of effort that shall be futilely deflected against an uncaring public.

There is the rest of the year to be a scrivener who needs no crutch. For now, the innovations shall brew and storm, a time of rest from the inferno that serves others and not the creator. And December shall be the month when the ink touches the page.

Battletech Memories and Favorites

AtlasThe Battletech Kickstarter is doing very well, so it seems a good time to discuss the nostalgia consuming my psyche. I admire how Harebrained Schemes has been stirring fan conversations, either to gather metrics for game design (preferred mechs, ideas for mission designs) or just to generate PR buzz or maybe just for fun. But it’s effective and has gotten fans stoked.

I guess the best way to kick off is by telling a secret. Battletech played a major role in inspiring me to become a writer.

I’m serious. My first introduction to the Battletech Universe was through Mechwarrior 2. I procured the game on a whim, after having scored a fine report card and earning a reward from my parents.

While browsing PC games, a tough decision was laid before me. I very nearly took home a copy of Crusader: No Remorse. In the end, the classic mech sim won out. That very night I installed and played through a training mission. At first, I couldn’t figure out how to walk. However, I discovered that by shifting left and right, I inched forward just a little bit.

You read that correctly. I penguin walked my mech to my very first objective.

Two minutes of studying the instruction manual later I discovered this nifty thing called “throttle.” Before I knew it, my Firemoth was rushing from Alpha to Bravo, actually completing the laundry list of goals to accomplish. Everything after that was smooth sailing.

Until I accidentally fired a potshot at my training commander.

One violent death later and I was hooked. The game had no play timer that I knew about, but hundreds of hours of my childhood were invested playing and replaying trial missions and beating both campaigns inside and out.

Decision at Thunder RiftAs I progressed, I spent some time trying to understand the greater conflict between Clans Wolf and Jade Falcon and the universe as a whole. Later, while at the local bookstore, I noticed a connection between Mechwarrior and Battletech. That’s when I received my first Battletech novel, Decision at Thunder Rift.

For the audience members who haven’t read it, the book revolves around young Grayson Death Carlyle, son of the leader of Carlyle’s Commandos. While stationed on the desert planet of Trellwan, a bandit ambush cost Grayson his father, his unit and his inheritance.

Grayson survives, but is left stranded on a planet that has become hostile. However, after jumping into a battle between the bandits and the local militia, Grayson manages to turn his luck around and convince Trellwan’s government to set up their own Battlemech lance. Yet before he can finish off the bandits, Grayson is plunged into a greater political plot that threatens his home nation.

As a thirteen year old kid, this novel blew my mind. William H. Keith Jr did an amazing job of grabbing the reader’s attention regardless of their age and throwing them into the adventures, political intrigue and battles of the 31st century.

And as if it wasn’t awesome enough, the sequel Mercenary’s Star was even better. The kind of perfect guerrilla war story that was rife with conflict, challenges and betrayals. These tales helped set me down the path of trying to polish my writing craft on online message boards. Sometimes I produced fan fiction, and sometimes it was original pieces. Mechwarrior was a ton of fun, but it was Keith’s awesome novels that made me want to become a scribe in my own right. 

Back to the games themselves. Not long after Mechwarrior 2 came the Ghost Bear’s Legacy expansion, followed by my absolute favorite entry of the entire franchise, Mechwarrior Mercenaries. It was in this title that I developed a preference for medium battlemechs. They possess very good speed, can absorb some punishment and usually provide just enough firepower to legitimately threaten far-end heavies and assault mechs.

And as Mercenaries taught me, they’re a good price. Everything I thought I learned about being a Mechwarrior was turned upon its head once I learned to manage the flow of C-Bills. Before, the only punishment for using missiles and ballistic weapons was simply a little less ammunition with which to complete that mission. But the addition of financial considerations make me consider the price of every shot and every expenditure. And rewarded me with savings for preferring energy weapons.

For that reason, I have to give two mechs which I consider my favorites.

CenturionThe first is the Crab. I first piloted this mech during a campaign between rebel forces and House Kurita during Mechwarrior Mercenaries. The Crab’s exclusive focus on energy weapons, including two useful large lasers, helped me to outlast the competition and saved money in the long run. For the attrition-minded, you just can’t beat the value of a Crab piloted by a skilled mechwarrior.

The second must be the classic Centurion. Sure, I could easily list the Shadow Hawk, Wolverine or Griffin, all respected for their well-rounded designs. But while the trio were jack-of-all-trade types, the Centurion knew its role; peppering foes from afar and preferring to outgun over outrun the competition. When paired with other mechs, it did a great job at fire support. On its own, a strong raider.

The further along the Kickstarter gets, the more convinced I am that it’s the game I didn’t even know I wanted until now. All the elements of Mechwarrior Mercenaries with the tactical considerations of Mech Commander. A persistent lance, missions throughout the entire Inner Sphere and hopefully multiplayer arena battles, all set in the era of classic Battletech. 2017 never seemed so far away.

High Fantasy to Inspire

Generally, high fantasy is not so much to my taste. The standard was primarily set by The Lord of the Rings, and everything else since then has often paid homage to that trilogy in some shape or form, often reusing many similar tropes. But sometimes, the reuse of familiar material doesn’t matter. Sometimes its just the quality of what or how the story is told that keeps the audience in their seats.

So here are five high fantasy games, books and television series that maybe more esoteric, but are definitely worth checking out…

Record of Lodoss War, by Group SNE

Once, Manuel mentioned Record of Lodoss War as an anime that inspired him. The series is quite Tolkienesque in nature, with many races and elements akin to Dungeons and Dragons. You may find the tropes very familiar.

For many fantasy franchises, there’s a kind of chicken-vs-egg origin question. Sometimes it’s a story that inspires a game, which tries to relive or create new scenarios to expand those adventures. Other times, the game is weaved around the gaming system itself. Record of Lodoss War is the latter of these two, coming from a looser role-playing system called Forcelia. From this, Ryo Mizuno wrote several novels, which expanded into a few games and three separate anime series of varying quality.

Of these anime series, I’ve enjoyed watching the very first. And I have seen elements of the second OVA series called Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight, whose opening can be viewed below.

The first series really did create a traditional RPG party. The main characters were a knight, a dwarven fighter, an elven shaman, a priest, a magician and a thief. No, really. The one-hundred percent traditional, balanced party you would otherwise only see in video games was in fact the main cast of a 13-episode television series.

Record of Lodoss War went back and forth from lighthearted to dark. You had tender scenes where naive knight Parn hit it off with Deedlit on the dance floor. In another scene, you see a man killed by… I don’t even know how to describe it. He turned purple and collapsed violently. Magic? Vicious poison? Who knows. But there are other high fantasy elements such as prophecies and enormous dragons. I suppose if you like traditional high fantasy and don’t mind large anime eyes, Record of Lodoss War is your thing.

The Secret of Mana, by Squaresoft

Secret of ManaBack in the days of the SNES, Squaresoft came up with a stellar idea for a Legend of Zelda-like action/adventure/RPG. Their concept? A three-player game, more about the collusion of magic and nature against technology and industrism, aging traditions clashing against expanding imperial powers. The past against the future. If you’ve ever seen Ralph Bakshi’s unusual film Wizards then probably have a some idea.

The story surrounded a boy who accidentally drew a sword from the waterfall near his home, acting on “Chosen One” trope. This otherwise innocent act unleashes a series of monsters and problems throughout the land. The boy is banished from his village and sent to solve the world’s dilemma.

Along the way he is joined by a girl trying to save a warrior she loves (a nice flip on the “Save the Princess” trope) and a sprite. By sealing eight seeds of Mana, they will be able to restore balance to the world. Unfortunately, the (Evil) Empire seeks the secrets of Mana for themselves to unlock the Mana Fortress.

The Secret of Mana shined as a fantastic game, a rewarding experience that was more about the joys of playing with a friend or two, discovery and teamwork. The environment was highly colorful and diverse. And the music was soft, haunting and unforgettable. The story of the game was nothing groundbreaking then or now, but moderately well told. Here’s the opening theme, and as Youtube user elrandohorse correctly asserted, it will result in “Manly tears.”

Tactics Ogre: The March of the Black Queen, by Enix

Ogre BattleI’ve only played one of the Tactics Ogre games, but it was good. Damn good. That particular game was Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen by Enix. The game oddly mixed RTS elements with traditional RPG details, but did so simply and quite well. The game’s plot focuses on a rebellion to overthrow an Empress who took control of the continent some 25 years earlier, but thickens a little bit after they succeed. An intriguing point mentioned on the Wikipedia is that the game was partially inspired by the Yugoslav Wars of the 90s.

The gameplay of the series was relatively simple. You organize multiple parties of up to five ordinary soldiers. They can be moved about the map, and when they come into contact with a foe they will engage. Battle was simply a set of rounds, with each character fighting pretty much on autopilot. Units cost money, which is raised every day based on the number of liberated towns and temples. Given the mouse-like user interface, I’m actually surprised it has not yet been ported to mobile devices.

There was considerable depth to the SNES game. As soldiers survive, they can be promoted to other classes and gain interesting new abilities. There were some 75 different classes they could become. Tarot cards were collected throughout the campaign, each possessing unusual, powerful properties that could alter the course of battle. Characters could also become evil or good on a scale from 0 to 100. This effects battle, as good characters fight better during the day while evil ones during the night.

Between this morality scale and several choices in the game, there were 13 different endings. These features were somewhat ahead of their time, making Tactics Ogre: March of the Black Queen easily one of the most interesting approaches to the RTS genre.

The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander

The Book of ThreeWhen you say old school fantasy, you usually cannot get more traditional than Lloyd Alexander’s five-book series, The Chronicles of Prydain. In truth the series is a hybrid, blending elements of high and dark fantasy with Welsh mythology, yet staying at the Young Adult reading range. Folks may be somewhat familiar with the series thanks to Disney’s movie The Black Cauldron, based on the first and second books and named after the latter.

Taran is a pig boy who dreams of a bigger life, yet is charged with the care of an oracle pig named Hen Wen who escapes after a frightening vision. Taran pursues his charge and is accidentally thrust into the conflict between the House of Dôn and the Horned King, followed by his master Arawn. Over the series, Taran grows into a man, particularly during the fourth book during which he travels with only the man-beast Gurgi.

The Chronicles of Prydain is one of the earliest dark fantasy series I’ve ever read, and what turned me onto the genre long before Berserk or the Diablo series ever came to my attention. The brilliance of course is that it’s still made for a younger audience, so the quintology manages to possess many thrills and foreboding sense of dread while never becoming so terrifying as to offset its readers.

The Pirates of Dark Water, by Hanna-Barbera

The Pirates of Dark WaterAdmittedly, The Last Unicorn almost made this spot. The reason it didn’t was due to the release of a new edition, which returned the movie to the public’s eye yet again.

Created by Hanna-Barbera, The Pirates of Dark Water take place on the ocean-covered world of Mer (French for sea.) The planet is suffering from a black substance that leaves whatever it touches barren and dead. Yet scattered throughout the world are thirteen treasures which can dispel this toxic mass.

Ren, a boy raised as a lighthouse keeper, is charged with finding and reuniting these treasures. Joined by a few unusual allies, Ren is opposed by Bloth, a rival pirate captain who seek the treasures in order to control the dark water for his own gains.

Although the series lasted but 21 episodes and ended before the story’s completion, the show must be praised for its daring and bold vision. Its influences fly against the orthodox medieval European settings common in most fantasy series. Rather, The Pirates of Dark Water feels like a cultural creole of many Asian countries. The clothing, weapons and even character designs all borrow historical hints from Korea, China, Thailand, Japan and several other countries. It’s a shame that it was cancelled before its time.

Pop General

“Showtime’s series tend to hinge around their central player and frequently risk fizzling when that character runs out of yarn or when the audience fatigues of them…”

Been catching Homeland and The Leftovers on television, finished reading The Black Company: The Book of the North and completed watching the last episodes of The Wire as well as the sixth season of The League.

CarrieThis season of Homeland has been pretty good. It’s too early to say if I’m enjoying it more than the fourth season, but the writers took a bold risk in trying to divorce Carrie of the CIA, after the unexpected high of having the “good guys” effectively lose. I used to cheer for the CIA in the earlier seasons when its mission was more defensive. But as of late the agency feels too Machiavellian. There has been some shocking contrasts in how certain characters have remained true to form while others have become increasingly…


I don’t know whether this is just the plot du jour, or if Showtime is preparing for a final story arc and the series climax in the following season (maybe two.) Admittedly I hope for the latter, as Showtime has a tendency to drag on after the ecstasy of a great tale has worn off.

Like Breaking Bad, shows of this caliber should end with an exclamation point, kill their darlings and never look back.

But HBO’s The Leftovers has managed to enthrall me, and even overtake my excitement for Homeland in just two episodes (I intend to see the third tonight.) After some comparisons of how HBO and Showtime manage their television, I’ve come to realize that Showtimes tends to be very protagonist centered, while HBO breaks up their story among various characters. The LeftoversGame of Thrones, The Wire… HBO does a great job of never being too dependent on anyone cast member. But with Showtime, series like DexterUnited States of Tara, and Nurse Jackie tend to hinge around their central player and frequently risk fizzling when that character runs out of yarn or when the audience fatigues of them.

Meanwhile, The League has definitely ground down. In many ways, the show can be compared to Seinfeld; the plot tends to pick up themes early and circles around to connect them (often ironically) at the end, while the characters are deserving snobs for whom we get a schadenfreude kick from seeing punished. Unlike the show about nothing however, The League has begun to recycle its humor and isn’t really adding anything new to the formula. Sure, there were a few moments of gold in the sixth season, such as when Andre was psychologically tricked into “punishing himself” for cheating. But the completionist in me is glad the series is ending.

As if this all wasn’t enough of a mistake in the consumption of my spare time, I decided to begin another game of Shadowrun: Hong Kong.

It’s not like I don’t have enough to do as of late. Three drafts await completion as it is; a military sci-fi piece, a post-apocalyptic story and a unique historical fantasy piece that I’d been researching for a few months. There’s also a novella that will be due before the year’s end and several technical projects that need my attention.

But I’ve been pretty stressed. An hour set aside to finish anything is never enough. Sometimes people need to be reminded of what’s fun to remember why the labor is worth the effort.

Shadowrun4AI actually finished my first campaign about a month ago, with an Italian elf shaman by the name of Bianca “Luna” Panzavecchia. With an emphasis of conjuring over spirit summoning and a focus on pistols, Luna was a great work-horse character. Her conjuring aspects surprised me greatly, particularly the barrier spells which I used to powerful effect… even going so far as to cheese the final boss. However, I put my first replay aside while I waited for a few patches to reduce the sheer of bugs.

Manuel and I had been swapping some build ideas for new characters for a while. About a month ago I had a vision of a troll adept (think monk) because of a natural synergy for Strength, Body and Willpower, and an emphasis in barehanded fighting. I jokingly shook my fist at Manuel for running ahead to try my idea first, but I finally got around to trying the theory myself.

A little karma distribution later and Charlie Shen, better known as Mó Chuí (magic hammer) was born. Shen hits like a semi-truck and can soak a fair amount of damage too. Downside to most melee characters remains consistent though; he’s frequently out of cover and tends to soak up a lot of damage. 50 then 60 HP and good armor will go far towards keeping him alive, but it would be best to keep a few emergency health kits on hand.

One thing I have to respect about this title was the removal of… what we’ll call “paragon” dialogue. Basically, Mass Effect set a standard for characters where as you can be the ultimately goodie-two shoe or evil incarnate. Dragonfall offered dialogue choices which were much more “cool grey” in nature, but did give the player the option of being a total @#$hole whenever they felt like it. Hong Kong tends to be a little more mellow about that, though you can push buttons if you try hard enough. And that’s the road I’m taking Mó Chuí down.

Spinal Troubles Again & Friday the 13th KickStarter

fridaythe13ththegameA new KickStarter is available for none other than Friday the 13th, an officially licensed multi-player game with 1 vs 7 asymmetrical slasher action!

The game is due out for the XBox One, Playstation 4 and PC. Funding is already nearing 50% after only two days. Horror fans unite!

As usual, once one starts getting ahead, life knocks them down again.

For two nights in a row, I stayed up late trying to get a handle around Spring programming, a framework used primarily with Java to develop web servers. I had to explain to the misses that the reason for burning the midnight oil was due to a condition called “nerd raging.” That is, persistent study and trial-and-error to achieve deserved results, sometimes beyond what’s healthy.

Well, between reduced sleep and generally avoiding the gym, I have managed to again pinch a nerve. My guess is T9, which differs from the previous incident near my neck.

dancing skeletonThe first night I spent primarily in bed, reading for a few hours before going to sleep around 10 p.m. But sleep was difficult due to pain. Remaining on my back or belly is fine, but I usually shift to my side at night, and the pain flares. I woke up and took a very hot bath to reduce the agony.

The worst part about herniated discs has to be trying to block out the pain during the day to day. Sometimes you’re fine and feel nothing. Other times, the slightest motion is all it takes to set off the scratching of unseen hooks throughout one’s entire back. The resulting grouchiness* and anti-social tendencies are just an attempt to preserve relationships lest others think the frustration of enduring is meant towards them.

According to the Mayo Clinic, 9 out of 10 herniated discs usually heal on their own with conservative treatment. However, a caveat is that while bed rest is ideal for the first day or so, those inflicted should actually try to increase their exercise and movements to return to normal.

I used this as an excuse to try something I believe would be ideal to my condition. Tai Chi.

I’d been wanting to get back into martial arts for a while. I took some forms of Karate in college and then some classes of Tae Kwon Do during the summers. Tai Chi is remarkably different. The interesting thing about the style is that the health and exercise components seem to have outpaced the self-defense traits. To most people, the application of Tai Chi as a martial art is secondary aspect. Furthermore, Tai Chi’s slow movements make it accessible even to the infirm.

There are actually a few videos available on Youtube with beginner lessons worth exploring. During the introduction of the lesson I watched, I couldn’t help but wonder if many of the movements the instructor used were designed more towards helping him combat his arthritis, which he explained he developed not long after medical school. Because of Tai Chi’s modern application towards health, I couldn’t help but ponder about instructors who researched techniques and movements to help combat spinal stress.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if there might not be some kind of Tai Chi service or database that could help people custom tailor their workouts to help alleviate particular health issues. To be effective however, I’d suppose that research would need to be performed to determine which forms, movements and motions are proven to have an impact against certain conditions. Getting my head around how to measure such metrics is a considerable task.

I keep wanting to add more about this but also constantly shove my foot in my mouth. Maybe I’ll check Netflix for a series on Tai Chi tomorrow…

*–This applies to regular folks. I however, am always grouchy.